One of the goals of GOMI is to have youth involved in community affairs. Abi Moore attended her first meeting of 8 towns and the Great Marsh, a regional environmental Board, representing the coastal communities of Essex County, Newburyport. GOMI had two students representing their city. Here is Abi’s thorough report to the Mayor.
8 Towns and A Great Marsh Meeting: March
In Attendance: Jay Baker Peter and Alicia Moore Jeff Walker Nathaniel Mulkay and Spouse Peter Phippen Deb Carey
The meeting began with a powerpoint presentation made by Peter Phippen on the topic of Great Marsh Restoration. He spoke to the topics of ecological restoration, dune nourishment, eelgrass planting, as well as the assessment, modeling and prioritization of hydrologic barriers, all of which will be executed with the use of the federal grant of 323,000, as well as fundings from collaborators totaling approximately 2.9 million in grants.
The slideshow went into more depth of native salt marsh restoration, including plans to plant eelgrass on 3 acres of land already picked out in Plum Island and Essex. Eelgrass is important to this area because it prevents erosion by anchoring its roots to seafloor sediment and slowing water flow. It has been 75 years since eelgrass have been planted locally, and has been found growing locally in only one location. The plans to plant eelgrass in these locations this summer will involve The Student Conservation Association by the utilization of their volunteers, and possibly the hiring, training and employing of students. In terms of hydrologic barriers, all will be assessed and the top 100 will be prioritized and redesigned.
Peter touched upon the points of dune restoration on Plum Island and Salisbury beach, as well as sediment transport on and off land outside Plum Island and into Essex. In addition to budgeting for these things, another aspect of what the grant will be used for is community resilience planning, with town level task forces in case of emergency. This finalized Peter Phippen’s presentation on the topic of grant spending for the Great Marsh Restoration project.
Following Peter’s presentation was Jay Baker, who used to work with Peter at Mass Bay and was part of state government for thirteen years before he quit his job to become an oyster farmer. He talked about his oyster farming endeavors, and his business, “Fat Dog Shellfish Company”, and their strategies for growing the best oysters. He spoke about the importance of oyster farming here, as it reduces turbidity and so, promotes the growth of eelgrass. Shellfish populations are greatly declining, and the hard shells grown together show evidence of commensalism or benefiting from growing together, so planting oysters will also increase clam and mussel populations.
Jay Baker introduced Nathaniel Mulkay to do his presentation on aquaculture. Nathaniel started with a brief history of aquaculture, the farming of aquatic plants or animals for food, explaining how the Romans invented it due to a need for more oysters than they could fish. He also informed the group that Plum Island’s depuration plant was the worlds first. He told us that New England’s clam population is in a very bad place currently, going from 52,908 bushels in 1997, to 2,626 bushels in 2014. He talked about his own experiments farming razor clams, which he has found a successful way to do, and hope will provide the necessary diversification for a healthy clam population. Mulkay also talked about how he had developed a pellet stove that can burn phragmite pellets, something the group was interested in speaking to him in greater depth about.
The meeting came to an end after Nathaniel Mulkay’s presentation.